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On August 9, 2023, the Red Cross reported that 41 migrants died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa. That figure adds to more than 2,500 people who have reportedly died or gone missing during dangerous sea crossings in 2023 alone. Young Africans continue to risk their lives to migrate illegally to richer countries because their governments fail to create a viable economic environment for job opportunities.

Addressing this migration issue requires a review of the migration frameworks of both leaving and receiving countries. Beyond that, African governments must actively address the root causes of migration, including poverty, bad governance, political instability, poor quality education, and lack of employment opportunities.

Navigating the challenges of Africa’s political instability and bad governance

Africa’s challenges regarding political instability, governance issues, and systemic problems have far-reaching effects on the continent’s economy and young population. The World Bank has forecast that growth in Sub-Saharan Africa will slow to 2.5 percent in 2023 from 3.6 percent in 2022. Over the next two years, reducing extreme poverty and returning to a pre-pandemic economic trajectory will remain challenging. These issues often drive young Africans to emigrate illegally. According to the African Youth Survey 2022, 52 percent of Africans aged 18 to 24 plan to relocate soon.

Reducing bureaucracy, improving the accountability of government institutions, and ensuring transparency in public finances are transformative strategies to fix the issues mentioned above. To achieve this, reforms like digitization to automate administrative processes and increase the transparency of government operations are essential. Independent anti-corruption agencies, regulators, whistleblowers, and citizens must be able to monitor government finances and performance. Most importantly, legislators must enact laws to protect those who expose questionable actions within government agencies.

In addition, new investment opportunities are crucial to economic recovery. They inject fresh capital into various sectors, fostering innovation, job creation, and economic growth. Moreover, they attract further investments, contributing to a more dynamic economy. But to offer these new investments, a degree of security and independent and fair legal frameworks that uphold the rule of law must be implemented. These include transparent laws governing investment protection, contract enforcement, property rights protection, and anti-corruption measures. Once applied, these laws will reduce ambiguity, prevent corrupt practices, protect investments from arbitrary government actions, and allow investors to plan for the long term. However, they must be implemented to balance the interests of investors, the government, and the local population to drive sustainable economic growth.

Implementing these recommendations requires a concerted effort to improve conditions in African countries and reduce the factors that drive individuals to undertake dangerous journeys in search of better opportunities elsewhere.

Unlocking the potential of a well-educated population

More than 400 million children live on the African continent, which is constantly rising.  According to UNESCO data for 2022, nearly 100 million young people aged between 6 and 18 are not in school, yet education can play a crucial role in tackling the root causes of clandestine emigration in Africa.

Education provides individuals with essential skills for employment and entrepreneurship, offering viable alternatives to illegal emigration. It empowers young people to contribute to local development and lead initiatives. In addition, educated people understand their rights. As a result, they are more likely to seek better conditions locally rather than risk embarking on an uncertain adventure and future abroad. Educated populations can also demand government accountability and encourage policies that promote economic growth and social development.

However, education must be affordable and of good quality. Improving teachers’ skills and salaries should be a priority. The curriculum used in schools in most African countries needs a review. These curriculums must be relevant, up-to-date, inclusive, and responsive to local needs while preparing students for the challenges of the modern world. To address the challenges of children in marginalized communities, scholarships, school feeding programs, and specialized vocational training improve attendance and retention rates.

Investing in education and harnessing the potential of a well-educated population benefits individuals and contributes to African nations’ overall development and stability by reducing the factors that drive illegal immigration.

Investment in job-creating sectors

Creating employment opportunities will discourage illegal emigration from Africa. The logic is simple: stable jobs provide a regular income, reducing the desperation that often drives people to seek opportunities in other countries.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of African economies. However, most of them belong to the informal economy. According to the IMF, the informal sector accounts for between 25  and 65 percent of GDP in sub-Saharan economies. Therefore, African governments must guarantee decent jobs and access to essential financial services, training, resources, and networks to help them formalize their businesses and become financially secure. This effort will then help to replenish the state coffers. Moreover, African governments must develop trade opportunities within Africa while diversifying economies beyond traditional sectors to create new job markets.

For instance, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) can bolster intra-African trade, economic growth, and job creation. However, strategic policies, investments in infrastructure, support for SMEs, and fostering innovation will be critical to the AfCFTA’s success.

Africa has the potential and opportunities to ensure a decent life and a better future for its people. By working in synergy, the various stakeholders can address the concerns of young Africans who resort to emigrating illegally in search of better lives.

Article by Valimbavaka Raherimananjara. Raherimananjara is a writing fellow at African Liberty.

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